Wednesday, December 31, 2008
What do I wish for in 2009? Rest, for one. Not sleep, rest. Also known as the absence of striving. More good food enjoyed with good people. And all manner of other nice things listed over the course of this year in my not-for-public-viewing journal.
Have a good one!
Friday, December 19, 2008
While I was reading this earlier tonight, I thought of the many people I know (including me) who've had their hearts run through the blender and are still waiting for that happily ever after.
I thought of you, relocating yourself halfway around the world to be near her only to find that she wasn't prepared to do the same for you.
I thought of you, resolutely staying in the marriage even though it's been years of continual grinding pressure on your nerves and there's no tangible sign that things will ever improve.
I thought of you, bravely floating your boats and saying good-bye to dreams because you know it's for the best.
I thought of you, willing to love even when it isn't fun, wondering if it's going to work out this time.
I thought of you, with your many regrets over things said and done too soon, too late, too wrong.
And in my thinking, I said a prayer for each of us. That love would make its presence known in our lives. Strong love. Courageous love. Protective, trusting, hoping, persevering love that steadfastly builds us into the people we were made to be. That the pain of the past would bring us wisdom. That we would be healed. That instead of complaining each time those splintering blades puree our hearts, we'd learn to keep them in a safer place.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
What could buy you a sight like that? I've never seen such a complete arc of a rainbow, let alone three! If you look closely, you'll see a faint second rainbow just beneath the clearest one. There's another one above it, a little further away.
I was in an indescribably dark place only a few days ago. It's hard to believe that the same girl who sometimes can't so much as say a word for the pain also pulls over while driving just so that she can photograph three rainbows. I am a person of contrasts, but one thing that never leaves me is the faith that things will be better.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Apart from fighting my university in a battle that mostly didn't need to happen, and meeting the living embodiment of passive aggression, and reminding myself that throwing a defective almost-new mobile phone on the ground and stomping it to pieces is not productive, I mean, other than all these things, this is what I've been up to. And more, but these are the photo highlights.
I've been making almost weekly trips to Paddy's, usually for my fresh fruit and veg run. Admittedly, sometimes it's also to browse the non-produce side to see the best of suspicious DVDs, tacky lingerie, sweatshop apparel, decidedly un-Australian souvenirs, and cute wooden toys it has to offer. If you know me well enough, you should know which of the above is the only category of merchandise I find worth photographing.
Then there's all this sitting/standing around that I've been doing, waiting for buses and trains.
And, before Semester 2 ended, there were those crazy Thursdays with nine hours of class held over a 12-hour period. So, I've been spending some quiet time during the 2-hour afternoon breaks. It helped keep me sane. The rainbows helped, too.
And because this is Ren, and Ren tries never to miss an opportunity to capture beauty, I've been snapping away. I actually walked out of class to snap this early-Spring sunset. Allrighty, it was also extremely stuffy in that mobile classroom. Wasn't too much of a chore to bring the camera with me when I skipped out to get some air into my lungs.
I've been having thoughtful dinner chats with friends. While uni was in session, evenings were sometimes spent in conversation at the grassy knoll, and this one time, nobody else seemed to notice that there was an extra guest at the table. (Shall I state the obvious and ask you to spot the ladybug?)
And now, as of three weeks ago, I've been working. After 10 months of searching and more job applications than I can count, I was and am so thankful to have got a job, and one that I even like. So what if, at the end of the first day, I ended up waiting an hour in the cold for a supposedly quarter-hourly bus? It eventually got me to let go of the idea of catching a bus on an empty stomach, and led me here:
To Not Bread Alone, celebrating the job, good weather, literacy and writing ability, and the invention of salt-&-pepper squid with lemon aioli. My unbiased, paying-customer opinion: it was really very tasty, and served not more than 5 minutes after my order. I'm not in the mood for long and laborious food reviews so I'll leave it there.
And these days, when the working and commuting and talking with friends and visiting 16-year-olds from Singapore all becomes so tiring that I can't fall asleep at night, I've been listening to this album a lot. Contrary to what the cover might imply, it isn't baby music played on, like, tinkly chimes and synth strings. It's grown-up and pretty and peaceful, and I wake up happy. I don't seem to fit into the producers' target demographic, but we all know that's nothing new.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I prefer to be happy and not pick on faults, but this is ridiculous.
The e-mail I sent to tech support is self-explanatory.
I just picked up my mobile from the [x] Store on George St, Sydney today, having dropped it off for repair last Thursday, November 20. The reason repair was needed was that the camera function would not launch. The "loading" icon would appear for several seconds (sometimes minutes), during which the phone was not functional, before it returned to the home screen. This occurred in both still and video mode.
I did not test the mobile in-store when I picked it up because I took it on good faith that your service technicians would have ensured that the specific problem detailed in the repair request had been solved before returning to the customer. Unfortunately, it seems my good faith was misplaced.
Only now have I had the time to test it, and find that the camera function is STILL not working. I am not particularly interested in the reasons why a faulty phone sent for repair was returned to the customer still faulty.
I AM interested in telling you that I am extremely dissatisfied that I have had to send this phone in for repair twice in the three months since I purchased it, and the second time, the fault was not even addressed. I don't have the time to keep visiting your store to drop off and pick up my mobile, and neither do I enjoy the inconvenience of switching to a loan phone for 2 weeks or so.
Please provide me with a new mobile of the same model or equivalent that works perfectly well in all its features, because clearly the one I have has problems that even your technical staff cannot solve. I have inferred this from the fact that I got the phone back with the fault intact.
I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"This church looks a bit creepy," I muttered darkly, staring up at what looked, in the shadows, like a Gothic sandstone mammoth under the trees.
"Ya. Let's go."
"That thing looks a bit creepy," I muttered, still darkly, once we'd buckled in.
"That thing, in front there with the head sticking out the front."
(It was some kind of memorial gateway with a cherub head, torso, arms and wings in relief.)
"Oh! Didn't see it. Ya lah... very creepy. And this guy..."
I looked at the couple walking up the street. Short, nondescript woman. Tall, wild-haired, pale-faced, unnaturally thin guy. Yesss...
"... looks a bit creepy also."
"Yeah, so let's go. Door locked?"
"You think I wait for you to tell me meh, with this kind of people about? Hey, what's he carrying?"
I dared not answer, having seen what Creepy Guy was carrying. I waited for her to figure it out, which she did:
"He's carrying... a head!"
For indeed, that dark night on Glebe Point Road, our paths had intersected with Creepy Guy who was evidently on his way home from a hot date at the sculpture studio or something. Because he was, in actual fact, carrying a human head. Not a real one, fortunately, but the effect was no less eerie in the shadow of Creepy Gothic Church and Creepy Angel Head Memorial.
We high-tailed it home, while the pad thai and pad see eew stayed warm and fragrant in their plastic microwaveable boxes.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Thank God for a great friend in Mich, letting me move in at the drop of a hat.
Thank God for three Sums and two Silvas who pitched in to do most of the heavy lifting of the move.
Thank God for generous friends who paid for my van rental in addition to doing the heavy lifting.
Just... thank God. That after all that's transpired, I'm still standing. Not only standing, dancing. Not only dancing, but laughing at the days ahead.
This is why I believe.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thank you for being friend as well as family, top marks on both counts.
Thank you for being more than I could have wished for or imagined in a cousin-in-law, not to mention a spectacular friend.
Thank you both for all the fun, and even more to come.
Congratulations. It's going to be an exciting, energetic ride.
More like this...
... and even better. Love you both!
Friday, October 24, 2008
The girl stayed at Orange Tree, and many things happened after the Chief Elf's news was first heard.
She had much of the story to tell, but it won't be today, because the girl has CDs to shop for and gardens to walk through and a seminar to attend before the sun sets.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
So here they are.
List of References
- Raymond Novaco's (author of the Novaco Anger Scale and Provocation Inventory, NAS-PI) biodata
- Publisher's description of the STAXI-2
- Graeme Senior of the University of Southern Queensland's report on the original STAXI
- Douglas Smith of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's write-up on the Multidimensional School Anger Inventory, published on the Violence Institute of New Jersey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey website
- STAXI-2 author Charles Spielberger's curriculum vitae
- The American Psychological Association's anger control page
- Anger control for children, from KidsHealth.org
- Abstract of Thor Johansen of the Adler School of Professional Psychology's dissertation on anger management treatment outcomes (restricted to those with access to ProQuest Journals; full paper available for download on ProQuest)
- Free book download (conditions apply, see website for details) of You Can Choose To Be Happy by Tom G Stevens, Faculty Emeritus at California State University Long Beach
Monday, October 20, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
And you might dig this picture up and say, "Like this."
"But why does hope look like beans, cauliflower, rice and stringy green things in a pot?" she will ask.
"Because one day, a girl was hungry. She had nothing ready to eat that would fill her stomach while nourishing her body, and she knew one should not live on a diet of chocolate and crackers. So, she chopped up the cauliflower that had been taking up her meagre refrigerator space, soaked up some soup beans, and threw them into a pot with some rice.
"It looked dreadfully insipid, but after she chopped up some fresh herbs that a distant relative had given her and threw them in, it wasn't so bad: only terribly insipid, rather than dreadfully.
"And, as she gave the potful a quick stir before putting it on to cook, she asked herself, 'Do you really think this cauliflower-bean-rice concoction is going to be something you can stomach eating for at least four meals?'
"And the girl answered herself, 'I hope so,' as the late-afternoon sunlight glanced off the pot cover and images floated into her mind of other unlikely triumphs of the impossible, like the flight of the bumblebee, the formation of a rainbow's multicoloured beauty from something as prosaic as refracted light rays, and her own grace while dancing despite sometimes being unable to walk in a straight line without falling over.
"And in due time it was cooked, and she ate and was glad, for hope had won yet again, and now she could say from experience that hope was full of beans."
Friday, October 03, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I've found it, my once-in-ten-years discovery. In it, Sandra Bullock (without the snorting laugh and unnervingly familiar tripping scenes of Miss Congeniality) and Keanu Reeves discover the joy of old-fashioned, pen-and-paper correspondence, made necessary by their separation. Unlike in the good old-fashioned love stories my grandmother would have grown up on, they're not separated by war, feuding parents, or his unbreakable engagement to the Emperor's daughter (hmm...).
My first response to their uncanny situation of living two years apart, but being able to write to each other, wasn't "How illogical!" because I am, after all, able to live with one foot in the real world while the other dances nightly with elves and tiny chipmunks under toadstools in the back garden. But I did wonder, "Why only two years?" Why not, say, 50? Or 500? How exciting to have a pen-pal who wrote in Shakespearean English because he was Shakespeare... or something. But that would be a different movie, I guess, like Kate And Leopold Go To Stationery World. Or... something.
Yeah, so what's so exciting about two people writing to each other? So sue me, I love writing. As you may have guessed. I love handwriting, especially, and I like the idea of the unselfish, easygoing friendship that develops without the pressures of physical attraction and premature commitment, unlike in just about any other movie. Of course, I was thinking it might be interesting if one or both of the leads weren't so attractive in the conventional sense, just so you could see that it really was on the basis of character that they fell for each other, but evidently Hollywood sensibilities differ. In any case, I have no prejudices against attractive people. Just thought I'd get that out in the open.
And I like the very subtle underweave of the story, the theme of how connection between people is really such a simple thing, yet so difficult. That even without being separated by two years, you can have walls around you to keep people from coming close. They say those things we're drawn to when we see them are the ones we recognise in ourselves... I need help breaking some glass.
Anyway, it's a beautiful movie. I love it, and that statement never comes easily from me. So take my word for it.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
Sometimes I think that only a child knows how to run with abandon, for no other reason than that she wants to.
There comes a point when we begin to run only if there's a purpose to it: to get away from something, to reach something before it goes away, to burn calories, to achieve that which will make people clap us on the back and give us medals and flowers.
Will we ever again run for the joy of running itself?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Ever since I first had a book to call my own, I have been pathological about not opening books too wide so that creases appear down the spine. That is why almost every book on my shelf looks as if it's hardly been touched; the rare creases can mostly be attributed to book-borrowers who didn't understand how very in earnest I was about not bending the spines.
But I knew it. It had to happen. Somewhere, sometime, the Crease To End All Creases would come along and shake my attachment to well-kept, pristinely uncreased book spines.
The very first time I open my brand new DSM-IV-TR, and...
This isn't just a crease, it's a crack. One that formed with an audible ripping noise that echoes through my mind till now.
Told you I was pathological about book spines. And of all the books it had to happen to...
Monday, September 01, 2008
Spoilers and this writer's honest opinion ahead.
This one goes like this: boy meets girl; boy and girl enjoy prolonged relationship that is, from where I'm standing (or lolling in blue bean bag lounge, as the case may be) mostly dull, verbally abusive and sexually promiscuous; boy and girl split up and separately undergo procedure to have all memory of each other erased from their minds; boy and girl meet again, with no clue that they've ever met before, much less yelled profanities at each other in a crowded market. And other endearing little "couple things"; boy and girl fall for each other all over again; and so, pretty much, ends the show.
As you may have guessed, I really hate to hear people swearing, especially when it's people who are supposed to love each other. By the end of the movie, I could not understand why they'd even been sorry to see the relationship end.
On the plus side, it is a very artistic movie with some interesting shots (including some very repugnant ones), and it does make one think: about the gifts that memory offers us and the painful cost often attached to enjoying those gifts; about the subjectiveness of remembering; about how very strange it is to hear Kate Winslet with an American accent and totally buy it.
Would I recommend watching it? Well. All things considered, no, unless you're one of Michelle's film production students, in which case she'll probably have all manner of interesting technical things to point out that will help you make a million as a big deal director before your 30th birthday. Otherwise, go watch Titanic for the umpteenth time instead; it's predictable and you can get sick of Rose "flying, Jack, I'm flyyyiiiiing", but at least it doesn't try so painfully hard to be profound.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
My first exposure to her work was through the film version of Murder on the Orient Express, during that time in the early 90s when Malaysia's RTM2 (as it was then known) must have thought that Victorian period crime movies were the choice of the people, because they showed one or two every week. I was too young at that time and I thought it was just another boring, draggy British drama. Only later did I make the acquaintance of the real Hercule Poirot between the pages of Murder in Mesopotamia and Lord Edgeware Dies, and discover the charm in his personality that only Christie's words could have brought to life.
A couple of years ago, I was browsing in the bargain aisle of a popular bookshop in KL when I came across Agatha Christie's memoirs, Come, Tell Me How You Live.
Reading it is like being given access into her private journal. You get to see what her "everyday" was like, living on a Middle Eastern archaeological dig in the 30s. There is mention of violent inter-clan fights among the workers; the painful necessity of deciding which half of the discovered artefacts to surrender to the co-sponsors of the dig that makes my recurrent "Dark Chocolate Fantasy or Mango Sorbet?" quandary at the ice-cream store seem even more stupidly frivolous than it is;and pushing this book even higher up my personal rankings, there's even a cat. Not just any cat, but a professional cat.
Giant's Bread was the first of a series of non-crime novels that Christie wrote under the pen name of “Mary Westmacott”. It surprised me at almost every corner with how current and modern it was. If someone had told me it was a World War I period novel written in the past few years, I would have believed it.
I could tell you about the characters and the plot, but the weaving of the story is so intricate that if I do, I might compromise your enjoyment of the story. Trust me, this book is worth reading, even if you're “not the reading type”. You'll see how the trials and pains of growing up are practically universal, whether you're in pre-war England or '00s anywhere. You'll love her dry irreverence:
“The living don't all want exactly the same thing, so I don't see why the dead should either. There must be heaps of selfish dead – if they exist at all they must be very much the same as they were in life. They can't be full of beautiful and unselfish feelings all at once. It always makes me laugh when I see a bereaved widower tucking into his breakfast the day after the funeral and saying solemnly, 'Mary wouldn't wish me to grieve!' How does he know? Mary may be simply weeping and gnashing her teeth (astral teeth, of course) at seeing him going on as usual just as though she had never existed.”
I laughed at loud when I got to the parenthesis about astral teeth. I'm glad I read alone these days.
Anyway, I'm having a hard time returning this one to the library. It's like potato gratin on a draughty winter's day: once it's finished, you still want more.
Monday, August 25, 2008
"Really? What, you bought some $10 second-hand one ah?"
"No, it was free! It was left outside one of the houses near uni."
"Good lah. Well, we picked up a fan from the roadside too." (said with obvious pride)
"But mine's a TV."
"Well, ours is a fan."
"Fine. Watch your fan and tell me how interesting it is."
"OK lah, you win... this time."
Friday, August 15, 2008
Losing a practically brand-new mobile phone is not fun. Especially when one has just, the day before, spent hours transferring contacts to it from one's old (and therefore non-computer-connectible) phone. And when one isn't exactly in a position to keep buying new phones.
I'm so very thankful that some honest soul turned it in. Apart from the phone, I am also very fond of the frog that contains it, a gift from my brother who knows my taste in the cute and quirky.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I swallowed the tears as I watched the effects of a brain tumour at work. I swallowed my questions and vented my faith. I swallowed the "why?" as I looked at the "this is".
And finally, it's over.
"In this world, you will have trouble," was the promise. That's not the usual pep talk you'd get from a leader. Fortunately, there's more. "But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Thursday, August 07, 2008
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
Tree: shade, nourishment, respiration, life. How good it is to see it all sprouting from the soil of weary, sickened hearts.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Overheard on a street in Pyrmont: "Got any spare change for drugs and alcohol, miss? I promise you I won't spend a cent of it on food."
Talitha made an early appearance in class today... or did she? I can't remember how much about her I'm supposed to disclose, so maybe I shouldn't be blogging about her yet.
I think one of the best compliments you can ever receive is an unsolicited hug from a boisterous and usually unfriendly-with-strangers toddler, of the type where they run towards you at full speed with arms outstretched and lunge right into your arms. It made my hour, definitely.
I miss my nephew.
Friday, August 01, 2008
Yes, thank you, God, that it's Friday and I can spend today filing my lessons, doing my readings like a good postgrad student, and watching a free movie.
Also, thank you, God, for Gore-tex,
for jackets made out of this beautiful textile,
and for the lovely people who gave me one of them,
so that when I absent-mindedly threw it into the wash one day and forgot that my mobile phone, house keys including electronic front door pass, and a friend's thumb drive were in its pockets, all of these items remained safely dry;
for that is how I found them after I had jumped up with a shriek halfway through the wash, run to the laundry room as fast as size 7 feet in treadless fluffy house slippers could take me, stopped the washing machine, and recovered the said items with trembling fingers.
You do take extremely good care of me and the things I have charge of. Thank you.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
One of the best years of my life, spent in probably my favourite academic institution of all the ones I've attended from kindergarten to postgrad. I have no idea about its quality now. I think what I enjoyed the most about matric year was finally being able to study in English. Having so much more time to spend with friends; meeting new faces other than the ones I'd seen for the past five/11 years in school. Being the class maths guru, literally, especially if you speak BM. Being told off by my mum for hanging out with the boys too much (even though I hung out with the girls plenty, too). The invention of "hobbying". The frighteningly campy hot-dog-and-burger man at the stalls that eventually got torn down and turned into Asia Cafe.
It wasn't a completely fun year. I remember a lot of travelling between Singapore and KL. I remember being sent off shopping with my grandma as soon as the chemo needle went in my mum's arm. I remember once driving my parents on the North-South Highway in rain so heavy that we felt as though the car wouldn't move forward, and I wondered what my parents were thinking, letting an 18-year-old behind the wheel of that car in that weather. I remember the rest stops and the unheard-of requests for soft drinks, because they made the nausea go away.
And I remember 1998 as the year Klang Valley people discovered potato bread.
It was launched by a certain French hypermarket, and to say the public went crazy is a misrepresentation. They didn't go crazy; they slipped into some strange parallel existence where potato bread was the only thing they wanted, and they would go to any lengths to obtain it. Queues formed at the bakery section, as though the 3x3 blocks of buns were being given out free. Quotas of two loaves per person were imposed because customers had started buying them by the trolley. My family, which was then 75% bread enthusiast, felt quite a sense of achievement whenever one of us had the patience to battle the masses and get our supplies in.
All this I remembered on this past Saturday, a particularly cold and wet one on which I'd spent too much time walking the city streets. What brought on the ten-year-old memory of potato bread? My present, 2008 experience of potato bread. To be precise, as Thomson and Thompson would say, the potato and sour cream loaf I'd spotted in the window of a bakery my cousin introduced to me recently. It called so loudly, I had to take it home. That is the downside to walking around the city well past lunchtime.
I'd expected something like that potato bread the men and women of old fought for: fluffy, yet moist and slightly dense compared with regular bread, with a fragrant sweetness hanging about it. This loaf was nothing of the sort: it was indeed potatoey and sour-creamy, and altogether savoury, complete with bits of chopped herbs embedded in it. And unlike the old-time potato bread, which had potato kneaded into the dough, this had whole chunks of the tuberous stuff that fell out when I tried to slice the loaf. I am not complaining about those chunks; I love the taste of potato in just about any form and for me, stumbling mid-bite upon a smaller piece that escaped the knife gives me a kick similar to finding that your appam had not one but two banana slices in it.
Yes, folks, this is how Ren spends a Sunday night: blogging about potatoes. But how I spent Sunday day is a different story entirely.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I know you're a private person and don't like having personal details splashed out for all and sundry, but I hope you'll forgive me this for the following reasons:
- The world (well, whichever section of it reads my blog) deserves to know what a treasure of a brother I have
- It's at least slightly different from sending an e-card
- I have refrained from writing anything REALLY personal, like the Noodle Incident. (Oh wait, that's Calvin & Hobbes. No need to worry then.)
- You were the best brother a girl could have when I was a kid. I still remember the nasty boys in the public pool splashing away in terror when they realised they'd been trying to pick on your sister.
- You're the best brother a girl could have now. I know we don't get to talk as often as we should, but somehow we still have that ability to know what each other is thinking. (Even if that elusive thought is something as inane as the name of Caesar's major-domo in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath).
- You are a phenomenal father.
- If there's any other human being on earth who can know what the first 20 years of my life was, it's you.
- You speak impeccable Arumbaya.
- You've always been a creative cook. I can't forget those cheesy baby spuds, or your first attempt at making hush puppies from the recipe on the back of a cornflour packet. If anyone inspires me now to cook up a good meal with limited ingredients, it's you.
- You aren't afraid that cuddling a kitty will make you look soft. (I'd like to see anything that would make you look soft, actually.)
- You got me eating animal fat after a lifetime of hating the stuff, and convinced me it would be good for me. (And it has been.)
- You have a great singing voice. It's a great speaking voice, too, but I can think of at least three friends of mine that you frightened off just by answering the phone. Not that that's a bad thing.
- Remember how Mummy used to pull us apart in those rare fights we had, and tell us "You two only have each other! You'd better learn to get along NOW!"? I'm glad she did, because I don't know where I'd be without your presence in my life.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Right place: check.
Right time: check.
There I was, recording a video of a Project Dance performance. I'd actually stopped recording for a while, but the sound of Latin music had me start again. Then suddenly, into frame, across the audience area, danced a couple who entirely stole the show as far as I was concerned. Their spontaneity and sincerity were so captivating to watch, I didn't even bother recording after they were done.
Doug and Cindy stealing the spotlight.
I managed to catch a few minutes of Doug Eltzroth's time this morning to show him the video of him dancing with his wife, Cindy and ask his permission to post it here. I think many of us could always do with a reminder that love needn't always be painfully sought; it does sometimes sashay right across our paths, and if the timing is right, we can capture it.
Time was limited, but I managed to learn a little about Doug and Cindy. They met through a musical in which he wrote some songs and she choreographed. Together they lead Collage, an arts collective that sums up some of the dreams I have for my own life (and that of the guy I end up marrying). It's been uplifting to watch their family in action this past weekend.
Thanks, Doug and Cindy, for being yourselves in the midst of the busyness of Project Dance, for allowing me to post this private moment of your lives, and for your ministry. I've been so blessed.
Right place: check.
Right time: check.
There I was, recording a video of a Project Dance performance. I'd actually stopped recording for a while, but the sound of Latin music had me start again. And then, suddenly, into frame, across the audience area, danced a couple who entirely stole the show as far as I was concerned. Their spontaneity and sincerity were so captivating to watch, I didn't even bother recording after they were done.
I managed to catch a few minutes of Doug Eltzroth's time this morning to show him the video (and ask his permission to post it here, which he graciously gave).
Time was limited, and I didn't get to talk as much as I would have liked to, but I did manage to learn a little about the dancing couple. Doug and his wife Cindy are co-founders of Collage, which is an orga
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I'm hoping they'll edit the Sydney performances into a video too, but here's the official video of Project Dance New York to give you an idea of how good today was.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
My childhood was marked by almost daily "episodes" (to put it gently) with either or both of my parents, in which I literally kicked (hard) and screamed my way to getting washed up, dressed and out the door to my nanny's. When I was in primary school, I grudgingly learned the art of getting up early, but not of waking up early. They are two very different things. Getting up involves climbing out of bed, brushing teeth, showering, eating, and so on. Waking up involves actual conscious cognition and function... something which didn't set in until at least an hour after I'd got out of bed.
My mum was either a classic Morning Person, or had become one through a lifetime of discipline. (Could that be me one day?) By 5.45 each morning, she'd be out of bed hanging laundry out, making breakfast, and having a coffee and talk with her favourite cat. There was never a school morning when I didn't have kaya toast, or similarly toothsome breakfast, and a hot drink in my own mug waiting for me at the table. By the time I was in upper secondary school, the hot drink had evolved into a chilled combination of Milo and coffee, which she'd make first thing in the morning and stash in the fridge so that by the time I woke up, it would be refreshingly cold. (And this was at least two years before the brilliance of Neslo Ais hit Malaysian stall-goers in a flash of genius.)
Up to now, I haven't been able to get just the right mixture of coffee, Milo, sugar and milk that will give me that taste.
Where was I? Oh. Yeah. I am not a morning person. (This is a VERY RARE morning post!) Although years in the working world have turned me into someone who will both get up and wake up early if required, I still haven't taken to it naturally. Coming from West Malaysia where the sun rises late, by the time I left the house for work the sun would already be well on its way. And since moving to Sydney, I have to say I haven't adapted my internal clock very well to local time.
Which is why it's so amazing that this morning, I was wide awake before 6, watching the sunrise over the city.
I didn't take any pictures, but I picked this one for an illustration because it's probably closest to the view I had, complete with the buildings in the foreground and the horizontal strip of orange light spreading over the darkness... the significance of which I hope to realise in the months to come.
I think the last time I was woken to watch the sunrise this deliberately was in 2006... I can't imagine how much beauty I miss by being true to my non-morning-person nature every day. I hope it won't take another two years for me to catch my next sunrise.
I wonder where the world's most glorious sunrises are...
Monday, July 14, 2008
Life, why d'you gotta be
Sweet and bitter all together?
I know, I know,
The sweet's for enjoyin' and givin' us the grins
And the bitter makes the sweet parts sweeter
But why oh why, I still wanna know,
Do you gotta be
Sweet and bitter all together?
Awwww yeahhh... (repeat several times. Banjo accompaniment optional.)
Ask me to tell you the story behind the "song".
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
I had cut through Belmore Park, because I'd observed the previous week that it was a much shorter route and well-lit enough not to be a stupid shortcut. And as I emerged from the park not more than 500m from my building entrance, I heard it. Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, floating across the park and over the sounds of honking, shouting, general city-ing, tapping me gently on the shoulder like a friend I hadn't met in 20 years. Or 13, maybe.
I walked until I found where the music came from: a lone busker, playing to recorded accompaniment. He was good, good enough to make me remember how much I loved listening to classical music when I was younger, starting in primary school up to my late teens. I wondered what had made me stop, and thought of getting a library membership so I could borrow some recordings.
But before I could get round to doing that, in another of those pink champagne moments, I found myself listening to the Sydney Symphony live at the Opera House on Monday night.
It was enough to make a childhood memory smile and scamper away back where it came from.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
How can one not be bubbly? Image from Stock.Xchng
Note: I have tried more times than I can count to make the typeface and text size of the following paragraphs consistent. Blogger simply will not obey. Still, better to have an imperfect published post than an unpublished one.
Because life is an experience of the sort where, one cold winter's night in Sydney, you might find yourself walking down Castlereagh St in a hurry, not because you are late but because it is cold and the sooner you reach warmth and shelter, the better. It being a Friday night, you are wondering where you can bring the ex-colleague you are about to meet, because this is Sydney and late-night establishments are few. At least, the type of establishment that offers a safe, warm place for non-alcoholic drinks and quiet conversation. So you wonder, as you bluster along Elizabeth St now, together with the chill wind that appears to be racing with you, where shall we go? And perhaps, you are also wondering if any of the places that are open will also be kind to your wallet, because you have yet to find a job and would like to Save Money while still Enjoying Life. All these things you wonder, and meanwhile, your toes are telling you that canvas slip-ons are not the warmest footwear, and your torso and arms would like you to know that the ensemble of Moschino tee with the sequinned-strawberry-juggling monkey in a tutu and the scribbled words "Multi Talented Girl" on it worn under a denim blazer might be more stylish than a windbreaker but it is also not very warm. But finally you decide that what will be, will be, and what establishment is open (and safe) at this time, will be. And so you reach your ex-colleague's hotel, and you don't wait very long, and she appears. But what's this? Suddenly you realise that you are having drinks with not one but two ex-colleagues, and their international hosts, and instead of buying her a $5 coffee in some little hole in a Sydney wall, you soon find yourself upstairs at the lounge, having a glass of Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial Rosé, and you walk home with two slightly intoxicated but still very chummy ex-colleagues feeling considerably warmer than you did on the walk out.
So, although life has in the past sometimes given me very sour lemons when I would have liked mango (mmmmm... mango), I have not given up on it and will not, because it sometimes gives you pink champagne when you expected to have to buy it a $5 coffee.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
A lot of bloggers are guilty of this, and most are unrepentant. "What? I got this story in my mailbox, I like so I post, lah. Free, what."
Indiscriminate e-mail forwarding is another thing that irks me, but let's stick to one at a time. Is it too much to ask that, if you have no original thoughts of your own and yet feel the compulsion to post, you say where the text was from or, at the very least, that it's not yours?
One thing I am thankful for today: that I no longer have to edit the work of a national editor who gets her "facts" from Wikipedia. (Not a Malaysian editor. At least there's that much consolation!)
BTW, everything on this blog so far is original. Aaaaaaall mine. Mine. Mine. Mineminemineminemineminemine... this video illustrates what happens when multiple Tohs encounter seagulls and have too much time on their hands. Thanks to the folks at Disney/Pixar for the possibly brainless, solely food-minded gulls in Finding Nemo. Five years on and still inspiring.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Today, I finished half as much of my assignment as I'd planned to.
Today, I cooked a smaller amount of curry than I'd originally shopped for.
The other night, I broke down while talking to cell group members and told them that maybe this is just my time to be mediocre, because I don't feel like the record-breaking Ren I used to be. Not mediocre, one corrected me, but it certainly is time to let go of my own ability and see what God will do instead.
My life over the past few years has been a constant, all-out fight to carve out a life larger than the present one. Job-hopping to a position that was more prestigious, and then to one that I hoped would be more fulfilling; upgrading from a single mattress on the floor to a queen-sized four-poster; overcoming my room's chronic untidiness by adding an extra desk; taking dance classes and participating in a youth conference, stage musical and film project simultaneously while working full-time; quitting work altogether in order to go back to school. I am not unhappy with the result, and my life has been enhanced by the many, many people I've met along the way. But I am, without a doubt, exhausted from the effort.
What, I wonder, what if for once I stopped fighting the current and let it take me where it would?
Would I be able to enjoy the ride, the cushioning waves beneath and the blue sky above?
Can I learn to enjoy the present instead of reaching out a grabby hand for something better?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Saturday, June 07, 2008
A: Excuse me...
B, stopping in her tracks: Hi?
A: I'm just wondering...
B, clearly wishing she hadn't stopped because A was so obviously going to ask for money: Yeah?
A: Do you think you could give me some spare change?
B: What do you need it for?
A: I just want to buy some food.
B: How much do you need?
A: Oh, just... oh, two dollars.
B: Are you hungry? Would you like some food?
A: Yeah, that's what I just said, I'm on my way now, I'm going to buy some. I'm just a little short.
B: I'm sorry, I don't have any change. But I do have food and I can let you have some.
A: I just want two dollars and I'll buy my own food.
B: No, I'm sorry. I don't have much money, myself. But you're welcome to some of the food I've got if you're really hungry.
A, agitated and annoyed: No. I'm going to buy some.
B: OK. (Walks off)
Does a genuinely hungry person turn down an offer of free food?
Is a person, apparently able-bodied and sound in mind, with the capacity to carry on a lucid conversation in fluent, proper English, entitled to demand $2 of somebody else's money in exchange for nothing?
I wondered if A would get her $2 and the dinner she was so set upon buying. I wondered if B would share her food with someone else.
I still wonder.
Friday, June 06, 2008
There was a time in my life when I couldn't drive down the main road in Section 16 towards Jalan Damansara without cringing. There was a huge billboard emblazoned with a publicity still from a local action movie, captioned, "Hero No.1 Malaysia". Said still was an upper-body shot of the movie's lead character in all his shaven-headed, mustachioed, leather- ("leather"?) jacketed glory. I discovered from the movie synopsis that said character was a criminal vigilante, one who took justice into his own hands when the law wasn't working his way. (Why does that sound familiar? Maybe it's because Hollywood has already done that plot so many times and for so long that it's ready to move to a retirement village and spend the rest of its days playing shuffleboard with old episodes from Lassie.)
Almost anyone else would just glance at the ad, snicker, and move on. After all, it was just a billboard.
My response was always to wince and wonder, that's Malaysia's hero? In the first place, since when was "hero" a recognised word in the Malay language? But more importantly, who appointed him an entire nation's hero, and did anyone actually end up buying chocolate-coated wafers because of this "endorsement"? Because, yes folks, that's what the ad was for: apparently, criminal activity and confectionery are a very appealing combination.
The point I've taken a rather long time to prove is that heroes are difficult to define, and sometimes, other people try to define them for you. But if you're like me, you don't take that sitting down, and you decide to say something about the people who you think really are worth your admiration.
Brother Andrew is one of those, and if you read his autobiography, you'd see why. The book was first published as God's Smuggler, then re-released a few years ago as The Narrow Road with accompanying first-hand accounts by Christians in hostile countries. Oh, and a CD single insert by Jars of Clay, but I don't think much of "celebrity" endorsements, as you might have gathered by now. I know it's hardly in the same league as the rather-sad-fictitious-"hero"-for-chocolate-wafers deal, but I couldn't help wondering why a band's name on a book should make it sell more copies, or gather more support for the work of the book's author. When will we learn to treasure things for their value, instead of relying on someone else to tell us what they're worth?
So, the book. It has all the intrigue of a spy thriller, the dry wit only a Dutchman (and a good ghost-writer) can master, and enough stories of miraculous provision and rescue to turn the hardest sceptic's head. And I bought it because it looked pretty... no, really, I bought it because I started reading the autobiography part while book-browsing one day in 2005, and I couldn't put it down, and I had a book voucher from my generous then-boyfriend. And it's probably going to remain one of my favourite books for the rest of my life. (Though it does look pretty, doesn't it?)
What makes Brother Andrew a hero in my eyes? Courage; sacrifice for a cause greater than himself; humility; faith; selflessness; and love for his family and friends, among other things. And I'm thankful to see these values displayed in many of the men I know. The cardboard heroes of the world are welcome to stay on billboards, vainly entreating people to buy cookies; while they do that, real men are changing the world one ordinary encounter at a time.
Who are your heroes?
Saturday, May 31, 2008
On the walk back from the clinic after my stitch was removed, I happened to glance up, and this is what I saw. I was cringing at the thought of returning to that house, and the very thought that that place was "home" to me made me want to cry. It did make me cry, on a few occasions.
The blue sky beyond the branches, in this case, turned out to be finding a new place within a week of kicking into "very active" mode with the phone calls, viewing appointments, interviews and various other inconveniences of searching for accommodation.
Having spend the past few months dreading the thought of leaving my room in case it meant more of the questions and small talk and altogether wearying interaction, I'm now happy to be home, whether in my room or out of it. The view is beautiful. The people are friendly without being intrusive. The facilities are an added benefit, one I didn't think to pray for but still received.
There is no little yapping animal.
I am happy.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Who was it who came up with the idea for bottling gravy in "Creamy Chicken Tandoori" flavour? Has this person ever tasted, or come within sniffing distance of, tandoori chicken? Hence, does this person have a clue that for the many things tandoori chicken is, such as spicy, juicy (if it's good tandoori chicken), fragrant, tender, and the list goes on... for the many things that it is, one thing that tandoori chicken never is, is "creamy"? I mean, it's chicken that has a skewer stuck through it before it's baked in a clay oven. Where is the cream going to go?
Lazy market research people, BAH.
What? Me, in a grumpy mood? No. I just like things properly labelled.
Speaking of tandoori, though, I had some the other day that was not bad at all. It was all those things I mentioned above; it could almost fall off the bone with a gentle shake; it could have been a tiny bit spicier; it was served on a Chinese hot plate. The wonders of multiculturalism.
Why am I eating out in expensive Sydney while still unemployed? It's my friends, you see. Beautiful friends I have who were so concerned that I wouldn't eat well post-chin-gashing that they took me out for dinner, ordered twice as much as necessary, then insisted I bring the leftovers home.
So for one dinner, I had the tastiest biryani I've had in years, with a side of palak paneer. The latter has been one of my favourite dishes since I first tasted it as a nipper. It's finely chopped (mashed?) spinach, cooked in oil, with cubes of cottage cheese in it. The last time I had it in KL, one of my dinner companions thought the cheese was tau fu. It's one of my comfort foods; I just have to have a spoonful of it and I'm 11 again, having dinner at (sadly) long-gone Baluchi with my mum, brother and uncle. (Better that Northern Indian food memory than another one which involves the same company, minus one, and me unfortunately forgetting to bring the cash with which my brother and I had planned to treat my mum to dinner.
Last night, dinner was the remainder of a roti, with another of my all-time favourite dishes, butter chicken. For breakfast, I'd had a quarter each of two types of naan: one stuffed with cheese (oh, how it made me miss the order-takers at Murni/Mohsin/Purnama/miscellaneous other mamaks with their endless lists of naan. "Chis naan, bahter naan, kasmiri naan, garlic naan, garlic butter, garlic chis, pizza naan..." "Pizza naan?" we'd ask. And inevitably, someone in the group would order it just for curiosity's sake, and it would sometimes be a delicious soft, fluffy cheese naan with more cheese sprinkled on top, then tomato, then... spring onion? The wonders of multiculturalism. Say, this has been a long parenthesis) and the other with grated coconut, nuts and honey.
But before all this food was leftovers, it was being enjoyed in-house, in the warm company of Kam and Darsh. My head was still spinning from the previous night's fall. I didn't know yet that I had concussion and whiplash. I tried to chew with a jaw that hurt more than I'd realised earlier in the day. But it was beautiful food, enjoyed with beautiful people, and that made it more enjoyable than painful.
And I still think people have no business inventing "creamy chicken tandoori" gravy (to be eaten with chicken, beef or lamb!). Why make something up when the real thing lies at your fingertips?
Monday, May 12, 2008
And, I'm also still irritated by a certain person's presence in my life, or perhaps by MY presence in HER life, whichever side of the looking glass you prefer to gaze from.
And I still really, really hate country 'n' western music, but since I can't stop it playing, have resorted to having my earphones on almost all day now.
But watching videos like this is a nice, healthy way to be reminded that I really don't have too much to complain about.
Even after falling onto uneven pavement, much like a felled tree, and landing on my chin, and needing to get the wound stitched, and staying in pain for what's been 21 hours since, I can say without irony that I am blessed.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Oranges, in this world that the girl lived in, were not easy to come by, and to taste one was a dream seldom to come true. A fortunate few experienced it once, and a very fortunate few, twice; some had even been to the legendary Orange Grove and made their living there.
But, this girl thought, I will not be greedy. I only want to taste an orange once, and then I will be happy.
She wrote to the elves at Orange Tree. "I would like to make a trip to the Tree and taste an orange," said she, "and, as it will be expensive and I must give up my present place on Flatbread Land in order to come, I will need you to tell me when the oranges are in season so that my trip will not be wasted."
She sent her letter by the swiftest of the swifts (and the swifts are birds that live up to their name), and soon a reply came:
"We thank you for your interest in oranges. We have exciting news for you: beginning with this upcoming season, we will no longer be growing plain, unexciting oranges on Orange Tree.
"We will instead be growing new, enhanced Vanilla Oranges, which are sweeter, more fragrant and tastier than the old oranges. It will be like tasting the orange you've dreamt of all your life, only better. As you know, our visitors were allowed to taste Oranges in exchange for one year's labour. Vanilla Oranges, being ever so much more of an experience, will require two years. We hope this is acceptable to you. If it is, please put your pine-cone seal on the dotted line below and return this letter by the waiting swift. We guarantee that you will be able to start work on your very own Vanilla Orange blossom as soon as you arrive."
And so, the girl began to make plans. Her little room in the dear house on Flatbread Lane was closed up, and her little car was sold, for if one wants to follow a dream, one must be prepared to make sacrifices. Good-byes were said, and tears were shed, but if one wants to follow a dream... well, you know the rest of that saying. And oh, she had dreamt of tasting an orange, so now that she had a chance of tasting not only an orange, but an entirely new! improved! orange, go she must, whatever it cost her.
And the girl bravely stepped into the pea-pod boat to Orange Tree.
Before very long, she had arrived, and been assigned her very own blossom to tend, to love and to keep alive for two years, that at the end of the two years, she might taste the long-awaited Orange. And not any orange would it be, but a Vanilla Orange.
It was not easy. There were days, and nights and afternoons too, when the girl wondered if the long hours of toil were worth it. There were times when she resorted to drinking the bitter juice of the Coo-Cow tree, named for its curious black-and-white trunk and the sound its leaves made when squeezed for their juice, just so that she could stay awake until the next turning of the blossom was to take place.
And yet, through it all, the girl told herself, you must work hard. You must stick to it. To taste an Orange! And not just any orange, but a Vanilla Orange! Are not two years of toil worth it?
Until the day came when she saw the Chief Elf, and she casually said hello, and he said hello in return;
and the Chief Elf asked, "How do?";
and she replied, "Fine, thanks, and you?";
and the Chief Elf said, "Fine, thanks, but are you really? You look so worn out.";
and she said, "Well, actually, Chief Elf, I am very tired, for I work day and night to tend my blossom, but it's all worth it, isn't it? I mean, with the new Vanilla Orange, I will..."
but she didn't get to finish, for the Chief Elf's eyebrows had shot right up to the top of his head, higher even, for elves don't have very large heads, and the Chief Elf had been surprised indeed at what the girl was saying.
"The Vanilla Orange!" he said. "Why, what's this about the Vanilla Orange?"
"What do you mean?" asked the girl. "Isn't that the new orange that is meant to surpass the ordinary old orange in every way, and then some?"
The Chief Elf's eyebrows returned, somewhat, to their normal post, and he said, "Why, yes, but we had decided not to grow it after all, because we were told that the Forest Office was letting us continue growing the old oranges."
The girl stood staring at the Chief Elf, speechless, for nobody had told her of this.
"What... what about the... Vanilla..." she sputtered.
"Oh, that was just an idea we thought of, when the Forest Office was thinking of not letting us grow the old oranges anymore. But now our Ordinary Orange Permit has been renewed, so we won't be growing Vanilla Oranges. In fact, I think that blossom you've been given-" and here, the Chief Elf took out a large ledger, in which were written the names of the pixie boys and girls tending the blossoms, "why, you are tending a Vanilla Orange blossom. Well, well. But I'm not sure it will bloom and grow into a Vanilla Orange, you know, for this isn't supposed to be a Vanilla Orange tree now, just an Orange one. In fact, I'm quite sure what you've got is an apple blossom, for Orange Tree produces apples, too."
The girl, well, she was dismayed beyond words. For she had shut up her little room in the dear little house on Flatbread Land, and said good-bye to all she had held dear, and bought a one-way ticket for the pea-pod boat to Orange Tree because, after all, who knows how much your life might change once you've tasted the orange, and you might never go back to the old one.
And now, to be told that her dream might be dust?
The girl was angry. She had had a dream. She had invested much into the dream. And nobody, not even the Chief Elf with his nearly detachable eyebrows, was going to take it from her.
I thank you, gentle reader, for having followed my little fable this far.
And that, in case you were wondering, is what I am going through now. I am very, very angry with my university. They are not going to get away with this. And yet, because it isn't resolved yet and they still have a chance of redeeming themselves, I am not making public my dissatisfaction just yet.
But watch this space.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Sunset over Hen & Chicken Bay. I've always loved looking at the sky in its various colours (except for the grey it takes on during haze season in southeast Asia or bushfire season in Australia), so these autumn evenings are a treat.
I know it looks as if I'm living it up in Sydney compared with my life in KL, and I am enjoying plenteous good times. But those are the ones I photograph. You won't see pictures on my blog or Facebook about the sleepless nights spent typing up essays, or the irritating housemate with her intrusive questioning and phone calls and insatiable appetite for country music, or the ache in my gut when I miss home and my nephew so much that I can't even cry. Blogs, like any other creative medium, are nice and malleable, and out of them you can construct a happy place where the worst thing that happens in life is that eggplant doesn't sink.